Day 30 of the Van Breda trial saw Lt. Coln. Sharlene Otto back in the stand today, and as tedious as this cross-examination may be, it is extremely important for Henri’s defence.

Let me first say, as a witness, I think she has been good for the State’s case. She is incredibly hard to cross-examine, since she elaborates on pretty much every answer she gives, and in a way that does not often assist the Defence’s ability to ask further questions of her. Most importantly, she doesn’t get rattled, she’s in control of what she says and lets Advocate Combrink know it.

She has spent quite some time in the witness box, hand up toward Advocate Combrink, insisting she be allowed to finish, and rightfully so.  Even in the face of being told that her answer is “utter nonsense”, a bit naughty from Advocate Combrink. Combrink can’t be faulted for pushing her, however, his cross-examination doesn’t appear to be going as planned.

The DNA evidence is strong. Led by the State, the DNA places Henri at the crime scene. It places DNA from three family members – Rudi, Teresa and Martin Van Breda – on Henri’s shorts. And, it places Rudi’s DNA on the knife, the possible blood of Henri, Rudi and Teresa on the shower floor, and quite importantly, no foreign DNA (non-family members) was detected. In order to adequately defend Henri, the Defence has no option but to scrutinize this witnesses’ version, any concessions welcomed.

The Defence have certainly done their homework on the State’s forensic laboratory. Yesterday, we heard a lot about its lack of accreditation, operating procedures, the competence and proficiency of Otto and the analysts in the laboratory’s employ. While the court will have to give due consideration to things like accreditation and proficiency tests in attaching weight to the evidence the State has submitted, it certainly won’t exclude it. I think the scales are in the State’s favour on this one – unless the Defence shows otherwise – this laboratory conducted DNA tests on 216 samples from the crime scene, using 20 analysts, following accepted procedures and the outcome was that the Van Breda family DNA was found on the various exhibits and samples.

What has been absent in the Defence’s line of questioning, however, is scrutiny of the actual report compiled by Lt. Coln. Otto. We have yet to hear the Defence put to Otto that an actual mistake or error or oversight has been picked up by the Defence.

If the Defence is building up to it, then a lot of time has been wasted getting to this line of questioning with Otto. That said, I don’t think the Defence is “clutching at straws” as many on social media have been saying, but rather, they would be doing their client, a huge injustice if they didn’t test every single aspect of this evidence.

Tomorrow, on Day 31 of the Van Breda triple murder trial, the cross-examination of Lt. Coln. Otto shall continue.

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Photography K-leigh Siebritz / HM Media

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